Posts tagged Louise Bourgeois
Posts tagged Louise Bourgeois
Louise Bourgeois, Janus Fleuri (1968)
The Freud Museum hosts a select exhibition of works by Franco-American artist, Louise Bourgeois curated by literary archivist of the Bourgeois collection, Philip Larratt-Smith. The Freud Museum, 20 Maresfield Gardens, was the house where Sigmund spent the last year of his life, September 27 1938 to 23 September 1939 and the house in which his wife Martha and his sister-in-law Minna Bernays together with his youngest daughter Anna and their housemaid Paula Fichtl continued to live after his death. The house was Anna, and close friend Dorothy Burlingham’s, home until her death in 1982 and it was in accordance with her wishes that it was preserved, opening to the public in July 1986. It was not until Austria was annexed by Germany in 1938 and the Freud family began being subjected to harassment by the Nazi party that Freud reluctantly left his home of 47 years in Vienna, yet it was in England that Freud completed Moses and Monotheism and began his final unfinished work, Outline of Psychoanalysis. Freud also maintained his practice in London, receiving a number of patients at Maresfield Gardens.
Arguably more than any other artist of the twentieth century, Louise Bourgeois produced a body of work that consistently and profoundly engaged with psychoanalytic theory and practice. Louise Bourgeois was born in Paris in 1911, moving to New York in 1938 with her husband Robert Goldwater, remaining there until her death in 2010, aged 98. Bourgeois began to see psychoanalyst Dr. Leonard Cammer in 1951, the year her father died, steeping herself in psychoanalytic literature. From 1952 until his death in 1985 Bourgeois saw Dr. Henry Lowenfeld, a former disciple of Freud’s in Vienna and a prominent member of the New York Psychoanalytic Society. ‘The Return of the Repressed’ was prompted by the discovery of two boxes of writings by Bourgeois’ long-time assistant Jerry Gorovoy constituting an archive of over one thousand loose sheets which record her reactions and responses to the treatment she received over a thirty year period. These will be displayed for the first time as part of the Freud Museum’s exhibition and range from watercolour sketches, notes, dream recordings, lists and drawings.
The weather on the day of my visit to the Freud Museum is characteristically erratic, important because of the fact that Louise Bourgeois’s Spider (1994) loiters, furtive, yet momentarily defiant, in the museum’s secluded garden, situated at the rear of the house. Spider crouches on eight bent and bandy legs, her bound body exposing a single pearly white egg, indicative of impending motherhood. Bourgeois sculpted a proliferation/clutter of spiders throughout her career, often associating them, as with Maman which occupied the Tate Modern’s turbine hall in 2007, with her mother, “She was my best friend. Like a spider, my mother was a weaver… Like spiders, my mother was very clever. Spiders are friendly presences… spiders are helpful and protective, just like my mother.” I have long been an admirer of Bourgeois’s powerfully corporeal, affectively autobiographical and remarkably heterogeneous yet radically idiosyncratic work. Works on display in the Dining Room, usually containing furniture from Anna Freud and Dorothy Burlingham’s country cottage in Austria, include disconcerting juxtapositions of menacing metal and bloated biomorphs truncated torsos and fleshy fabric forms reminiscent of male genitalia. Untitled (2009), is particularly striking, a bulbous woollen head bulging on four sides with faces which shriek, cackle grimace and girn. In Freud’s famous Study and Library, preserved by Anna after her father’s death is suspended above his rug strewn analytic couch, Bourgeois’ Janus Fleuri (1968), a powerfully ambiguous work, part breast like, part phallic, and ‘perhaps’ in the artist’s words, ‘a self-portrait’.
On the first floor landing is placed, The Dangerous Obsession (2003) a stuffed, kneeling figure, naked and head bent, clutching a vermillion glass globe symbolic at once of blood, violence, jealousy and emotional vulnerability. On display in one of the first floor rooms is I am Afraid, 2009, an emotive piece of sewn poetry, in which Bourgeois confesses to a lifelong fear of separation and abandonment, or in other words, ‘empty stomach empty house empty bottles’. ‘The sewing’, she said ‘is my attempt to keep things together and make things whole’. Traumatised, Bourgeois is, as Freud notes, in Beyond the Pleasure Principle, doomed to a compulsion to repeat painful past experiences in the present. ‘Trauma’, Cathy Caruth has postulated in Unclaimed Experience, ‘is always the story of a wound that cries out, that addresses us in the attempt to tell us of a reality or truth that is not otherwise available’. Cole argues that, the image of ‘the speaking wound…resonates in part because it returns a fundamental productivity to the sufferer, in the form of his/her urgent storytelling’. Bourgeois, through her art, through the act of creation is able to overcome the disillusioning passivity of her uncomfortable position and is able to feel actively, if feverishly, fearfully productive. The work on display in this room speaks more explicitly, more fractiously, of Bourgeois’ obsession with motherhood and includes small scale sculptural works such as, Belly, a bloated bronze (and black and polished patina) torso complete with bulbous breasts, Untitled (2005), a pale, sugar pink marble form defined by a notable bulge of buttocks and proliferation of fleshy protuberances, Le Trani Episode (1971), flaccid, fluid filled sacks cast one on top of the other in bronze, silver nitrate and gold patina, and perhaps most disturbing of all, Nature Study (1986), out of what looks like a slug worm cast emerge spindly fingers which clutch/crush a miniature headless body.
In the next door room are displayed the most aesthetically ambiguous and violently visceral works of the exhibition, seen alongside a framed selection of Bourgeois’ self-psychoanalytical musings and textual workings out. Cell XXI (Portrait), (2000) and Cell XXIV (Portrait), (2001) both depict pendulous biomorphic forms symbolic of states of ‘ambivalence and doubt’ encased within sinister steel structures. Bourgeois stated that the Cells represent “different types of pain; physical, emotional and psychological, mental and intellectual… Each Cell deals with a fear. Fear is pain… Each Cell deals with the pleasure of the voyeur, the thrill of looking and being looked at”. Two works on paper entitled The Feeding (2007) depict large, swollen breasts and the form of a baby boy, alternately sated, struggling and squealing. Bourgeois’ characteristic wet on wet application of gouache creates a bloody, saturated effect reminiscent of amniotic and other abject bodily fluids. All in all a fascinating, psychologically charged experience.
See the original and edited version of this article on Who’s Jack Magazine’s website.